“Thanks” is the one word that will save your your relationship.
Couples who express gratitude to each other rate their marriages as higher quality, a study has found.
Expressing gratitude also reduces the likelihood of divorce, the researchers found.
Gratitude is particularly powerful at overcoming repetitive arguments.
The key is feeling appreciated by your spouse and acknowledging when they have done something nice for you.
Dr Ted Futris, study co-author, said:
“We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last.”
For the study, 468 couples were asked about the quality of their marriages and how they expressed their gratitude to each other.
The results consistently showed the power of gratitude, said Dr Allen Barton, the study’s first author:
“It goes to show the power of ‘thank you’.
Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes.”
One particularly dangerous negative pattern is called ‘demand/withdraw’, Dr Barton explains:
“Demand/withdraw communication occurs when one partner tends to demand, nag or criticize, while the other responds by withdrawing or avoiding the confrontation.
Although wife demand/husband withdraw interactions appear more commonly in couples, in the current study we found financial distress was associated with lower marital outcomes through its effects on increasing the total amount of both partners’ demand/withdraw interactions.”
Gratitude was effective at breaking through this negative pattern, said Dr Futris:
“Importantly, we found that when couples are engaging in a negative conflict pattern like demand/withdrawal, expressions of gratitude and appreciation can counteract or buffer the negative effects of this type of interaction on marital stability.”
Dr Futris continued:
“All couples have disagreements and argue.
And, when couples are stressed, they are likely to have more arguments.
What distinguishes the marriages that last from those that don’t is not how often they argue, but how they argue and how they treat each other on a daily basis.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Personal Relationships (Barton et al., 2015).